Due to growing awareness of the dangers of the generational “disconnect” between Africa’s elderly leaders and the demographic majority of youth under the age of 30, who represent two-thirds of the continent’s population, schools are regaining traction as conduits for the formation of a new generation of African leaders. Education is generally recognized as having a central role in cultivating civic participation and, in Africa, schools have been especially instrumental as training grounds for national leaders throughout the continent’s post-colonial history. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in schools in Nigeria and South Africa, this talk juxtaposes two contexts, which are producing a rising cohort of young leaders: (1) highly-selective programs and institutions aimed at creating a “leadership pipeline” for gifted, “entrepreneurial” youth; and (2) recent school-based political movements that are, perhaps less intentionally, developing in young people an awareness of their political power. The two contexts—institutionalized leadership initiatives “from above” and grassroots activism “from below”—articulate different political logics, educational praxes and, ultimately, visions of transformation. Both represent axes of education’s role in what has been called the “new scramble for Africa,” demonstrating the political stakes of schooling and the pedagogical underpinnings of politics for a rising generation of young people in Africa, in a moment in which young people, globally, are making important demands for social change. 

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